11/1/51 - More about Washington BY-WAYS - 11/1/51 - More about Washington - October 19, 1951 -

My dear Friends,

Before we go on to Philadelphia, let us take a quick turn through the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The building itself is in four large wings. We, as tourists, were taken through only one - where they print the currency. Our young woman guide explained that the employees in this department must carry the highest character references; but once they are in, they are never searched. From an observance gallery we looked down on huge printing machines, which were rolling to the tune of $86,000,000 a day. It takes that many to replace the bills we pass around and fray in frenzied finance; or to replace those willfully mutilated - as in the case of the smart aleck guest at Hotel Cleveland, who tore a dollar bill in half, giving two porters each a "half dollar." Men supervise the printing machines, but women do the checking and counting. With a trained and practiced eye, the checkers caught any flaw with amazing speed, and kept the red pencil busy. I saw great sheets of $10 bills come through the big presses with the swift nonchalance of the morning newspaper. The largest denomination, the guide told me, is the $100,000 bill. But I assure you it is not in circulation. It is used only between Federal banks. We did not get to see the postage stamp wing. But my little book tells me that it occupies three floors, and that the special rotary presses turn out 3,000,000 stamps per printing unit. The Engraving Division, which we did not see, employs 170 of the finest craftsmen.

Come to think of it, I have not told you of our visit to the Capitol. Although Virgil had been through it twice on a conducted tour, and I, once, we just had to see it again. If every school child could have, as part of his education, a careful tour of that building, could drink in all its beauty, could know that George Washington laid the cornerstone, could study the early history of our country in magnificent murals, could look upon the statues of our greatest men, could see our legislators at work, could feel the throb of the "heart" of our nation, he would certainly grow up a better and more purposeful citizen. As V and I were studying one of the great murals, a group came along with a guide. His "line" was both edifying and humorous. He magnetized us; we latched onto his party. Many minutes and steps later - I think it was just before they entered the Senate Chamber - he asked for each one's tickets. It was then that we realized we were chiselers. Like old soldiers, we just "faded away." (Only "slunk" would be a better word). We visited the Senate in session a little later. This time it was dry as dust. The other time I was there, Henry Wallace, as Vice President, was chairman. There was much activity and discussion that time.

To go back to our garrulous guide, he told of the mail chute underground between the main postoffice and the Capitol - to expedite delivery. The mail is shot through by compressed air. He remarked that there is always plenty of hot air at the Capitol - (I wonder if they know he is saying that). The acoustics in the rotunda of the Capitol are so nearly perfect that at one spot a person can whisper and be heard clear across the room. Now enough for this week. But next week we'll have a fine visit in Philadelphia.

Florence B. Taylor

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